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Shomer Negiah again

We moved into our new house today. By coincidence, the geographic area that met our location requirements (walking distance to the park, the grocery store, the library, major bus routes) is coterminous with the area that is walking distance to Squirrel Hill's various Orthodox synagogues, so we seem to have become the token Gentiles on the block.

There's something kind of funny to me about leaving a land of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand, only to move into a neighborhood full of modestly dressed women and men who won't shake my hand.

Today's interesting cultural interaction occurred when our movers, who are Israeli, arrived at the new house. Bringing in the first load of boxes, one of them noticed the mezuzah on our front doorway and said, "Oh! You're Jewish?"

"No," I said, "The former owners left that there."

The next time I walked through the doorway, I noticed the mezuzah was gone.

I was somewhat relieved, since I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it -- I think it's supposed to be buried, like an old Torah, but I wasn't sure.

However, then the former owners called to say they'd come by to collect their mezuzot today. So, awkwardly, we had to ask the mover if he'd taken it. He replied that it was obligatory to remove the mezuzah if the new houseowners weren't Jewish, and did not offer to give it back to us. So, I hope the former owners were just coming by to make sure the mezuzot were correctly disposed of, and not because they had any particular sentimental value!


Jul. 30th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I only brought up the chair to point in the direction the slippery slope went :)

I did think of the fact that, because of what you said, it was quite a reasonable likelihood that the next family to move into a house in that neighborhood would be jewish --- but then again, I would expect the leaving family to determine this, and then decide whether to leave the mezuzah or not.

Maybe, like you said, there exist families that aren't Jewish, but want to keep mezuzot arond for some reason anyway. It sounds like you're possibly "not allowed" to do this, but that's verging on really legal-philosophically uncomfortable. It reminds me very directly of Peter Suber's comments:

Similarly, most other games do not embrace non-play and do not become paradoxical by seeming to do so. Children often invent games that provide game-penalties for declining invitations to play, or that extend game-jurisdiction to all of "real life" and end only when the children tire or forget. ("Daddy, Daddy, come play a new game we invented!" "No, sweetheart, I'm reading." "That's 10 points!")
(from http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/nomic.htm)
Jul. 30th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
This, of course, reminds me of the Jews in front of the Giant Eagle (Noahides) who, upon learning that I wasn't Jewish, told me my duties as a non-Jew.

See http://gustavolacerda.livejournal.com/413306.html
Jul. 30th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
Those same people looked very uncomfortable hearing that I'm not Jewish but some people in my family are and would not take my word for it that I understand Halakah enough to know that I am not considered Jewish by custom even if I have some Hebrew blood.

I have learned that they are still keen to give me Latkes and Dreidls but won't give me Tefillin. Some of my Orthodox friends won't give me Chometz and others are eager to give it to me. Hooray for confusion!

Edited at 2010-07-30 09:19 pm (UTC)